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Looking ahead 2010: Education

What will happen during the upcoming legislative session looks to be the biggest concern in the local school systems as 2010 quickly approaches.

After a year wrecked with economic decline, sales tax losses and the highest proration in history, and yet another year of proration to follow, local school officials are looking carefully at what Alabama Legislators will do.

“Looking toward next year, what is going to happen in Montgomery in January and February is first and foremost on the minds of all superintendents,” said. Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell.

“As I’ve said previously, how we deal with the issues at the local level will depend on the state level.”

Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith agreed.

“We will look at the legislative session beginning Jan. 12 and ending in the early part of April, knowing that the revenue projection are not there for the education trust fund,” Felton-Smith said. “We will carefully monitor our funds. We know there will be no additional proration for 2010, but we don’t know what 2011 will look like.”

Both schools systems have been fortunate enough to have reserve funds to draw from, which have kept them in better shape than many throughout the state.

“We’ve done a pretty good job as a school system making sure that the proration we’ve had wasn’t felt in the classroom,” Bazzell said.

Look ahead academically, both school systems will continue to work toward maintaining academic excellence.

“From an academic standpoint, we will continue to meet and exceed the state standards in order to provide our students with academic success,” Felton-Smith said. “It’s our No.1 priority at all times.”

Bazzell said PCS will continue the implementation of new requirements for state mandated testing.

After meeting approval from the Alabama State Board of Education earlier this year, both Pike County and Troy City School Systems will begin implementing new testing strategies that will take full affect in the 2011-2012 school year.

Currently, students are required to pass all three portions of the graduation exam before receiving a high school diploma. The tests are given in sections throughout high school years, and according to an article in the Birmingham News, take 15 calendar days out of the year. Under the new requirements, students will instead be required to pass end of course examinations in certain subject areas.

“We will drop the SAT and graduation exams from the program, and we will replace that with an end of course test with various subject areas,” said Bazzell.

In addition to end-of-course testing, students in the 11th grade will be required to take the ACT, a test that is now used as a college entrance exam across the state.

“We’ve already been doing some of those things,” Bazzell said. “We’re well on our way with implementing these changes.”

Bazzell said academies are doing well.

“Our business and finance academy continues to be a model in the state,” Bazzell said. “And our Ag academy recently held its first rodeo.”

Bazzell said PCS test scores continue to be on the right track.

At TCS, Felton-Smith said they will “keep our Seven Steps to Success at the forefront”

“It’s our blueprint,” she said.

Felton-smith said the system will continue to work on the central office project, as well as the projects at the elementary and middle schools.

At Troy University, things are beginning to move along in Troy University’s new arena project, at the December board of trustees meeting the board voted to proceed with the arena plans and grounding breaking will be held sometime in January.

Construction is expected to begin in February.

Troy University is also prepping for the GMAC Bowl in which the Trojans will take on No. 25 Central Michigan.

“This is a great opportunity for us to be in our own backyard, in an area that we recruit heavily, not only athletically, but academically,” said Athletic Director Steve Dennis.

The University will also begin working vigorously to present the first cut of the strategic plan for Vision 2015.

Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. said the strategic plan should be available for final approval in May.